OLYMPIA, WA - Just a week after the Washington State Department of Ecology declared a Drought Emergency in several counties - including Walla Walla County - state lawmakers received more unsettling news about the weather forecast and the state's below-normal stream gauges. The state has been under a Drought Advisory since July 5th and 12 counties were placed under the Drought Emergency on July 24th.
"Even without the warming of earth’s atmosphere, drought conditions can be expected to recur every few years. But temperatures are rising and summers are getting drier. Snowpack, a major source of Washington’s water supply, is declining. Low snowpack years will become more frequent in the future," the agency says on its website.
During a Joint Legislative Committee on Water Supply During Drought meeting on Monday, Ecology's Jeff Marti explained how the agency determines when there is a drought. He says there are two components - one is based on a hydrologic threshold and the other is a consideration of impacts and hardships to water users and the environment.
He adds that when they look at conditions they consider a variety of hydro and meteorological metrics.
This year, Marti says the state was sitting in good shape with snowpack by April. In fact, it was slightly above normal. But things quickly changed with an exceptionally warm May.
Marti says about 75% of the state's stream gauges are either below normal, or worse. He adds that one thing water users can do to assist the Department of Ecology is to inform them of any hardships they are experiencing due to the drought. Visit the agency's website for more information.
You can sign up to receive updates from the Department of Ecology HERE.
See the current statewide stream gauges HERE.